The View From Churchmans

Ipswich Town home match reports from just another season-ticket holder

MATCH REPORT

Ipswich Town 0 Birmingham C 1

Well, Birmingham came with a plan, to stop us playing our flair game, and
succeeded well. They made sure they kicked the ball around in the air for
10-15 minutes to put us off, they played (very) hard, and they packed the
midfield. You can only admire Trevor Francis for that, even if you feel
like decking him. Unfortunately we weren’t anything like as tactically
sharp.

What this game should have been was a close contest between two strong
sides, with the attacking edge going to the home team. And indeed, that’s
what it was in the second half. But for the first 45 minutes, we allowed
ourselves to be made to look very naive, and that was enough to swing the
balance in Birmingham’s favour. A daft penalty swung it far enough to
give them all three points.

OK, the penalty. Just seen it on the local TV, and it looked just like it
did at the time. Of course it wasn’t a penalty, Thetis cut across in
front of their player who just bounced off him. A stupid, stupid
decision. BUT these things are going to happen with a player as clumsy
and ungainly as Thetis. He doesn’t have to BE a clogger to LOOK like he
is one. And that’s why despite any number of good aspects to his game
(and I’ve said this time after time after time, with little support on
the List) he is a liability. Today really, indisputably proved it.

Of course Burley had to take him off at half time. If he’d lasted another
10 minutes without getting another red card I’d have been surprised. But
by then the damage was done. Birmingham (and particularly Paul Furlong)
knew how to make his clumsiness look like it was verging on the
malicious. What’s more, they knew how to wind him up. And at this level,
we CANNOT have players who are as easily wound up as that. Thank goodness
we’ve got so many good defenders (although why we need ANOTHER one on the
left, in the shape of Croft, I do not know: what about the right flank
George?).

The second half change to 4-3-3 was much, much better. The 5-2-3 just
wasn’t working, the wing backs never got forward (can anyone remember
anything from either Jamie or Fabian?) and the two in the centre never
stood a chance of feeding the strikers decently. We were completely
out-thought.

Very disappointing. I’m off on holiday for a fortnight, so I won’t be
around to see the predictable flak I get for criticising Thetis as usual,
but surely this time it’s become obvious that there are much steadier
options in defence? Give ’em some extra support for me next Sunday, I’ll
be watching the Toronto Blue Jays thrash Cincinnatti. Not quite the same.

Some ratings:

WRIGHT 7: Richard’s made the odd mistake recently but he was much more on
form today, and a good save at the end. There’ll be plenty of comparisons
with Nicky Weaver next weekend!

WILNIS 6: Some people seemed to think he had a good game, but just
because you’ve got loads of space, as Superfarmer had in the second half,
doesn’t mean you’re having a good game. he only got the space courtesy of
Stan Lazaridis not seeming to know what was going on, and I don’t think
he really made the most of it.

MCGREAL 6: Steady in the centre, although for someone who’s supposed to
be good at bringing the ball forward and distributing it, still quite
disappointing. Moved over to right-back as we went to 3-at-the-back later
in the game, and looked nervous. A long way from developing Mowbray-like
presence, but I’m hopeful.

VENUS 7: Steady, didn’t do anything daft, although losing his rag with
the ref and getting booked should have been beyond him. Otherwise, easily
the pick of the first half defence.

THETIS 5: As strong in the air as ever, but childish in his reaction to
Birmingham’s niggling, and just generally clumsy. So he can’t help it,
but it doesn’t mean we have to put up with it. Substituted at half-time
for…
BROWN 8: Much, much better. Playing as left-back in a four-man defence
might not be his preferred position, but Wayne hardly put a foot wrong.
He was intelligent in interceptions, strong in the tackle, and played
some super long balls forward. The most exciting introduction to the team
since we watched, bemused, as Kieron ran his socks off a couple of years
ago.

CLAPHAM 7: Like Wilnis, didn’t get forward nearly enough in the first
half, but showed some good commitment and on several occasions, some
lovely skill. I still don’t think Jamie’s found his best position though,
and I worry that the way the formation is going (not to say new names in
the team), his role is being squeezed out a little. Whilst obviously good
enough for the side, I’m not sure where he’s fitting in.

HOLLAND 8: Matty was making great interceptions then having to dust
himself off, get up and go after the loose balls himself, so stretched
were we in midfield in the first half. If only his finishing hadn’t gone
completely to pot this season he’d have had 4 or 5 already and we’d be 4
point better off probably. Still, he’s getting into those positions!

WRIGHT 6: OK, Jermaine was as stretched as Matty, but he should watch and
learn. Nothing drastically wrong, but his poor forward distribution was
largely to blame for the strikers not really getting going. Substituted
in the middle of the second half for…
MAGILTON 7: Didn’t stamp his mark on the game like we’d have hoped, but
helped the team get into the new shape we all wanted, with Wilnis and
Clapham finally getting wide and forward.

SCOWCROFT 6: Frustrating day for James, who can mix it with the tough
guys but always seems to come off worst. Few opportunities, and the play
was far too bunched up for there to be any chance of his linking play
being needed. Had our closest attempt, a decent header deflected by a
defender onto the crossbar.

JOHNSON 7: We’ve been spoiled of late, because this wasn’t a bad
performance from Johnno, but disappointed nevertheless. Few chances to
run, as there was simply no space, although he made almost all our good
efforts. Should have had a penalty first half – far worse than theirs
which was given, but a victim of his diving reputation methinks. Put the
ball in the net but was (apparently) offside, and had a great flick over
the keeper which was just not enough to trickle over the line.

NAYLOR 6: Didn’t get it together with Johnno, and showed worryingly poor
control at times, squandering our posession. Lost his temper and lashed
out at a Birmingham defender in the second half – fortunately not seen by
the ref or linesman, which was lucky, as the defender collapsed
theatrically and (having just seen the incident on Sky News, ooh the
channel surfing I have to do) outrageously.

We’re down to 3rd (so it’s first against third again next week!) but I’m
not so much worried by the likes of Man.City (who are where they are by
stringing together a lot of clean sheets: they’ve hardly scored at all,
over half theor goals in one game!) but I think the bigger problem is the
mass of teams right below us -right down to tenth, and then it’s Nottm
Forest and Blackburn – a mass from which several strong challengers are
going to appear.

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